'100% fatal' deer disease causing chaos around world 'evolving and could spread to humans'

'100% fatal' deer disease causing chaos around world 'evolving and could spread to humans'

A deadly deer disease that is “100% fatal” is causing havoc worldwide and could potentially spread to humans, warns an expert. Earlier this week, an “emergency” was declared due to a significant increase in chronic wasting disease (CWD) cases in the United States. Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reported that 19 deer are now suffering from CWD, with several fatalities.

The neurological illness causes infected animals to stare into the distance and become “extremely skinny” and “aggressive”. A recent study suggested that the disease could be evolving to become more infectious to humans, causing concern about our preparedness to combat it.

Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota, said: “We are working on a major initiative, bringing together 68 different global experts on various aspects of CWD to really look at what are the challenges ahead should we see a spillover into humans and food production.

“The bottom-line message is we are quite unprepared. If we saw a spillover right now, we would be in free fall. There are no contingency plans for what to do or how to follow up.”

Sick animals are known to stumble around while drooling and will lose their fear of humans while often becoming aggressive. Infected animals – which can include deer, elk, moose, caribou and reindeer – are incredibly contagious, with their tendency to stare earning them the nickname ‘zombie deer’.

There are no known treatments or vaccines and it is incredibly hard to clean an area even after burning the ground, which is recommended. Infected deers don’t show symptoms until at least one year, but once the virus takes hold the animal will be dead in months.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CWD has been found in at least 31 US states, plus Norway, Finland, Sweden, South Korea and Canada.